Alcatel to boost IPTV expertise in Asia

French telecom equipment maker sets up a new center of expertise to ensure the region has the right technology skill sets.

SINGAPORE--Communications equipment maker Alcatel has set up a competency center in the island-state to provide the Asia-Pacific region with IPTV (Internet Protocol television) expertise.

Jointly set up with Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB), the center will train 10 professionals in IPTV technology over 25 weeks under EDB's Training Attachment Program, said Oliver Foo, Alcatel Singapore's managing director. He declined to reveal the cost of setting up the center.

Foo said the professionals will acquire skills in managing next-generation IP networks that combine voice, video and data. The center will also support IPTV projects in the region and customize applications for service providers, he added.

The Singapore facility is Alcatel's second center in Asia. Alcatel has similar centers in Shanghai, United States, Belgium and Germany, said Monika Maurer, the company's president for fixed solutions. "The Singapore center will allow us to develop local [IPTV] applications and stay closer to our customers in the region."

According to Maurer, IPTV is gaining momentum in the region, especially in Hong Kong, where there are about 500,000 IPTV users. By 2010, she predicted, there will be 72 million IPTV subscribers worldwide.

Maurer noted that IPTV is becoming an important growth strategy for telecoms operators in the region, with 30 percent of Asian operators rolling out IPTV services aggressively. "Voice revenues are declining, and there is increasing pressure on operators to deliver new value-added services. IPTV is an attractive option for them to increase revenues."

IPTV allows consumers to watch television in an interactive manner on a broadband Internet connection. With an IPTV set-top box, viewers could pause a movie to take a mobile phone call before resuming the movie later. They could also chat online during a program and watch videos posted by friends in a closed user group.

Although hardware makers are pushing for IPTV in the region, at least one country has decided to take it slow after the market's lukewarm response.

According to a Total Telecom magazine report, Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom called time out on a NT$4 billion (US$120 million) investment in IPTV services. The investment, which produced revenues of just NT$50 million (US$1.6 million) in the 21 months since its launch, only managed to attract 70,000 subscribers as of December last year. The company had set a target of 300,000 subscribers.

Chunghwa has since suspended a 30-channel IPTV service, opting for interactive TV and video on demand instead, the report said.